Darjeeling - what bells does it ring - Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, exotic tea flavors, imprints of Victorian Age - all this and more in the land of non-elusive Nirvana.
Do not forget to pinch yourself if the sight of tea estates from the windows of first class coach belonging to Toy Train looks too good to be true. The playing children with their parents carrying the huge basket meant for collecting delicate tea leaves might catch fancy as the wish of being there in the first place crosses mind. After all, joy is what is much looked for in a hill station as old and as amusing as Darjeeling.
At around 6710 ft, one can dream of sipping world-famous Darjeeling tea and going on to enjoy the waves of cool breeze softly combing exposed skin until goose bumps accompanied by views of green mountains and some of the highest peaks of the world. While on the roads to tour Darjeeling, the Victorian town is hard to miss which puts on show the period it was under British control. The colonial era is still a part of the popular boarding schools located in this renowned hill station. But what is not exactly reflected by the town is the time when it used to be a part of Sikkim until annexed by British for their own purposes.
Situated in West Bengal, the hill town is well known for mixed ethnicity including Nepalese, Bengali and Sikkimese, a result of its history been rooted in these places. British era of past will continue to influence the way Darjeeling tourism is evolving.
The game is on, the platform is set and the tour has been begun. Take the way of divine in the worship places to auspiciously initiate what is about to be a travel indelible from the memory lanes. Followed by what is more than just an inviting tale of Nature catching hold of the minds always on distraction spree, the anticipation is often rewarded by 'more'.
Places of Worship
Mahakal Temple - Located on Observatory Hill, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva but manifested himself along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu as well. However, this is not the prime reason why locals as well as tourists swarm the place but presence of both Buddhist as well as Hindu priest amuses and interests them along with the rituals and readings from both the religions.
Dhirdham Temple - A temple founded by King of Nepal Purna Bahadur Pradhan in 1939, its architecture appears inspired from Pashipathinath Temple in Kathmandu. The white statue of Lord Shiva with five moods and third eye instills the feeling of being watched and at the same time being cared for. Traveling Darjeeling is often associated with the peace of places of worship like this.
Bhutia Busty Gompa - Becoming a part of Darjeeling in 1879, the place on Observatory Hills used to be a part of Nygpama sect's Phontang Monastery of Sikkim, with Kanchenjunga making and spectacular background. It then faced a catastrophic earthquake turning it into ruins.
Ghoom Monastery - Also referred to as Yiga Choeling Monastery, it was built in 20th century with a 4.57 m high statue of Maithreya Buddha. 7 Km from Darjeeling, the place is known to hold rare manuscripts.
Aloobari Gompa - Tibetan and Sikkimese monks selling religious accessories and handicraft found some 3 Km away from Darjeeling often belong this particular monastery, colored in red and white. There are several other monasteries for those who are interested in exploring.
Snow Leopard Breeding Centre - One of its kind the breeding centre is meant to conserve the dwindling numbers of felids of Himalayas that are in tune with extreme cold ecology- Snow Leopards. It is new because Snow Leopards are not known to multiply under captivity. An important part of Darjeeling trip, it amuses scores of tourists making it to this place.
Shrubbery Park - Located behind the Raj Bhawan, the park came in to existence only recently overwhelming the visitors with the views of Singalila Ridge and third highest mountain Kanchenjunga. Cultural programs held here during peak tourists seasons are another interest that allows people to keep coming and enjoy the sanctity Darjeeling has to offer.
Badamtam Tea Estate - The estate was once managed by a British company presently owned by Goodricke Group is known for Darjeeling First Flush Teas. The location of the estate is between 3005 m to 1830 m, going to Sikkim.
Ganga Maiya Park - Also referred to as Ganga Maya Park at many times, the place is recently developed to give tourist some more feel of the ambience of Darjeeling. Made out of making sensible cuts in the hill and a stream that passes through it, the garden extends to Rock Garden some 2 Km away.
Observatory Hills - The hill atop the Mall on Mall road culminating at Chawrasta is Observatory Hill, well known for the Mahakal temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and some Buddhist temples. Bhutia Busty Gompa used to be here before relocated to its current location. The other two important hills Katapahar and Jalapahar are also very much visited being nearby to it, arranged in shape of 'Y'.
Tiger Hill - The hill is well known for some of the most ravishing views of Nature of and around Darjeeling. People come to a point easily that could be easily trek to and enjoy the sight of some of the highest peaks of the earth like Mt Everest, Kanchenjunga, etc.
Tenzing and Gombu Rocks - Commonly referred to as Monkey Rock but named after two individuals, viz. Tenzing Norgey and Nawang Gombu, these are located in Lebong Cart Road, often used by Himalayan Mountaineering Institute too conduct training.
Batasia Loop & War Memorial - A 360° view of Darjeeling is what might interest tourists immensely and this exactly is what they get from the massive Batasia Loop- a railway project commissioned in 1919. A war memorial dedicated to Gorkhas who gave up their lives in wars after 1947 is located just in middle. Nearby is an Eco Garden adding making it to the Darjeeling tourist itinerary.
Lloyd Botanical Garden - It came into existence in year 1878 by the efforts of William Lloyd and later developed by the Dr T Anderson. Now, one can enjoy rare species of plants brought from different parts of geography. Collection of Orchids has made the place proud of its varieties which tourists admire without any miss.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park - The zoo is most famous for being among the highest zoological park in the word in addition to having successfully bred a Tibetan wolf in captivity along with some other rare species of Himalayan fauna.
Japanese Peace Pagoda - A popular tourist attraction, the place is well known as a peace sanctuary. Also known as Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple, it preaches the values of non-violence, which could be understood by the influence of Mahatma Gandhi on Nichidatsu Fuji Guru. A Buddhist temple and monastery stand in the same premises to overawe the onlooker.
Toy Train Ride - A part of Darjeeling Railways- a UNESCO World Heritage, the train offers a slow-paced ride which allows the passengers to feel the exhilaration amidst Nature. The steam-engine and its sound only add to the memory this experience makes.
Places around Darjeeling
If a tourist wishes to make his Darjeeling tour package somewhat more accommodating and that he would, the surrounding areas are as inviting as this particular hill stations.
Kalimpong - Mostly recognized as a part of Darjeeling region in West Bengal, it is rarely forgotten for the sheer joy of tourism. Some 50 Km away from here at the foothills of Lesser Himalayas at altitude of 1250 m, it overlooks Teesta Valley. Bhutan had its presence in the place till 18th century and the influence shows.
Siliguri - Belonging to the same region of West Bengal, it acts as gateway to the other hill stations situated here. The beauty of the place is enhanced by the Rivers Balasan and Mahananda, just as by the tea estates.
Mirik - The hill station which might create interest in tourists on visiting this lovely aspect of Indian holidays could be this among the others in the same region. Sumendu Lake with the opportunity of fishing and boating is one of the major attraction but be sure to check others as well.
Kurseong - Some of the famous temples in the region could be found here including Gidapahar Durga Mandir, Ambhotia Shiva Temple and Jagadish Temple. Some popular Buddhist monasteries and Nature's elements like waterfalls and surrounding lush greenery would make for a memorable trip.
Bagdogra - If you want to experience white water rafting in Teesta River while on Darjeeling holidays, this is where one comes to. Its location acts as the base to enter in nearby hill stations of Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
Pelling - This town though located in Sikkim lies very close to the Darjeeling district, so much so that one can easily opt to pay a visit possessing extra vocational time in hand. Kchehepalri Lake, Sangay Waterfalls, Buddhist monasteries like Sangachoeling and Pemayansgtse Monastery, etc are some attractions worth time.
Things to Do in Darjeeling
Darjeeling is known for trekking adventures that start from one point and end at other but not without making visitors turned trekkers realize that they are watching exquisiteness of Nature at its best. Some of the well known trekking trails include Singalila Ridge, Darjeeling to Sandakphu, Kalimpong Relli, etc, where Darjeeling might not necessarily be the beginning or ending point. Other adventurers can look for Mountain Biking options present in the area, a pollution-free in addition to being challenging activity to indulge in.
Darjeeling Hotel Information
Every visitor feels special once landing on a place like this, surrounded by sheer opulence of Nature and to make it better there are accommodations suiting to all types of budgets projected by groups / individuals on a holiday trip to Darjeeling. The deluxe ones are elaborate in their services as well as appearances, where as the budget hotels will do everything to appeal individuals who are trying to make the optimally utilize every penny in their pockets.
Some of the best a tourist can look at are Hotel Sunflower, Dekeling Hotel, Hotel Seven Seventeen, Windamere Hotels, ShagriLa Regency, Viceroy Hotel, Mayfair Hotel and many others among hotels in Darjeeling.
Climate in Darjeeling
Maintaining a pleasant climate throughout the year, the place had entered in the good books of the British for this very reason. Be it summers, winters or monsoons, the only difference being slight change in temperature ranging from 5° to 25°C. Monsoon can bring heavy rainfall while snow is not to be seen the region. Summer is great for sightseeing and trekking activities.
Best Time to Visit Darjeeling
Choose any time of the year and that will be engraved on mind forever. Monsoons can be avoided by elderly as winters by individuals of fragile health; otherwise the place is ideal anytime one decides to visit.
How to Reach Darjeeling
By Air: From New Delhi, Guwahati and Kolkata, flights could be taken to Bagdogra which acts as nearest airport to reach Darjeeling. Rest of the 93 Km of the distance is covered by taxi.
By Train: Nearest railways station to Darjeeling are Jalpaiguri (62 Km), Kishanganj (114 Km) and Dhupguri (147 Km). From Jalpaiguri one can ride Toy Train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways to reach the famed hill town.
By Road: Bus services are taken from some of the prominent cities and town like Kolkata but for longer routes there might be a need to change once as in the case of Delhi to Darjeeling connected via Gangtok, Kalimpong and Siliguri. Cars or taxis could also be hired to reach the place.